Euchre (pronounced /’ju:ker)/) is a trick-taking card game most commonly played with four people in two partnerships with a deck of 24 standard playing cards. It is believed to be closely related to the French game Écarté, and it may be sometimes referred as “knock euchre” to distinguish it from bid euchre, though it has been more recently theorized that the game and its name derive from an Alsatian card game named Juckerspiel
The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all have large followings of the game. Euchre has declined in popularity in the United States since the 19th century, when it was widely regarded as the national card game, but it retains a strong following in some regions like Midwestern states, especially Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and in New York State. In Canada, the game is still very popular in Ontario. In the past couple of years we have seen a resurgence of euchre along with other cards games.
Euchre is played differently from region to region and even within regions. This article describes typical euchre rules, noting some of the variations that may be encountered.
Conventional euchre is a four-player trump game, wherein the players are paired to form two partnerships. Partners face each other from across the table so that the play of the cards in conventional clockwise order alternates between the two partnerships.
Conventional euchre uses a deck of 24 standard playing cards consisting of A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9 of each of the four suits. A standard 52-card deck can be used, omitting the cards from 2 to 8, or a Pinochle deck may be divided in half to form two euchre decks. In some countries, the common 32-card piquet or Skat deck is used, which includes the 7s and 8s.
To determine the first deal, many players use a first Jack deals or first black Jack deals rule. Using the euchre deck, one player will distribute the cards, one at a time, face up in front of each player. The player dealt the first (black) jack becomes the dealer for the first hand. In subsequent hands, the deal is rotated clockwise. Out of courtesy, the dealer should offer a cut to the player on his right after shuffling and immediately before dealing.
Each player is dealt five cards (or seven if using the 32-card deck) in clockwise order, usually in groups of two or three cards each. The dealer may alternate, first giving two cards to the player to his left, three cards to his partner, two cards to the player on his right and three cards to himself. The dealer then repeats, this time giving three cards to the player on his left, two cards to his partner and so on, to give each player the requisite five cards. Some dealers prefer to deal going down or up such as 4-3-2-1 then 1-2-3-4, although it doesn’t matter what order the cards are dealt in as long as each person gets 5 cards.
The remaining four cards are called the kitty, but are sometimes referred to as the kit, the widow, the blind, the dead hand, the grave, or buried and are placed face down in front of the dealer toward the center on the table. The top card of the kitty, sometimes referred to as the deck head, or the “up card” is then turned face up, and bidding begins. The dealer asks each of the other players in turn if they would like the suit of the top card to be trump, which they indicate saying “pick it up” and the top card becomes part of the dealer’s hand, who then discards to return his hand to five cards. If no one “orders up” the top card, each player is given the opportunity in turn to call a different suit as trump. If no trump is selected, it is a misdeal, and the deal is passed clockwise unless it was agreed upon to play screw the dealer, an option that involves forcing the dealer to choose a trump (see the Bidding section in Euchre variations).
When a suit is named trump, any card of that suit outranks any card of a non-trump suit. The highest ranking card in euchre is the jack of the trump suit and is referred to as the right bower, or simply the right. Next highest is the other jack of the same color, the left bower. The right and left may also be known as the “jack” and the “jick”, the “right bauer” and “left bauer,” or “jack” and “off jack” respectively. Remaining cards of the trump suit rank from high to low as A, K, Q, 10, and 9.
In non-trump suits (except for the next suit), the jacks are not special, and the cards of those suits rank from high to low as A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9.
Assume a hand is dealt and that spades are named as trump. In this event, the trump cards are as follows, from highest ranking to lowest:
Jack of spades (right bower)
Jack of clubs (left bower)
Ace of spades
King of spades
Queen of spades
10 of spades
9 of spades
For the purpose of play, the jack of clubs becomes a spade during the playing of this hand. This expands the trump suit to the seven cards named above and reduces the suit of the same color (sometimes referred to as the next suit) by one card (the jack is “loaned” to the trump suit). The same principles are observed for whatever suit is named trump. Remembering this temporary transfer of the next suit’s jack is one of the principal difficulties newcomers have with the game of euchre (See Cheating: Renege, below).
Once the above hand is finished, the jack of clubs ceases to be a spade and becomes a club again unless spades are again named as trump during the playing of the subsequent hand.
Objective and scoring
In euchre, naming trump is sometimes referred to as “making,” “calling,” or “declaring trump”. When naming a suit, a player asserts that his or her partnership intends to win the majority of tricks in the hand (3 of 5 with a 24-card deck, 4 of 7 with 32 cards). A single point is scored when the bid succeeds, and two points are scored if the team that declared trump takes all five tricks. A failure of the calling partnership to win three tricks is referred to as being euchred (also called “getting set” or “getting bumped,” again depending on geographical location) and is penalized by giving the opposing partnership two points. A caller with exceptionally good cards can go alone, or take a loner hand, in which case he or she seeks to win all five tricks without a partner. The partner of a caller in a ‘go alone’ hand does not play, and if all five tricks are won by the caller the winning team scores four points. If only three or four of the tricks are taken while going alone, then only one point is scored. If euchred while playing alone, the opposing team still only receives two points. (In some places, a euchred lone player is worth 3 points.)
The primary rule to remember when playing euchre is that one is never required to trump, but one is required to follow suit if possible to do so: if diamonds are led, a player with diamonds is required to play a diamond. This differs from games such as pinochle.
Calling (naming trump)
Once the cards are dealt and the top card in the kitty is turned over, the upturned card’s suit is offered as trump to the players in clockwise order beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. If a player wishes the proposed suit to be trump, he orders up the dealer (or the dealer picks up).
If each player passes in this round, the top card is turned face down and that suit may no longer be chosen as trump. Trump selection proceeds clockwise beginning with the player to the left of the dealer. The dealer is not ordered up in this round. If no suit is chosen in this round, the cards are reshuffled and the deal passes to the player on the dealer’s left.
The team that selects trump is known as the “makers” for the remainder of the hand. The opposing team is known as the “defenders” for the remainder of the hand. The makers must take at least three of the five tricks in the hand in order to avoid being euchred. If one of the players does not have an ace or a face card or any trump cards, they may choose to call “no ace, no face, no trump”, in which case the hand is disolved and the deal is passed on to the player to the left of the current dealer.
In the second round rules are:
The suit is not required to be in the hand of the calling player
In the final round of bidding, the dealer is forced to choose a suit instead of passing the deal to the person on his left (called “stick it to the dealer”)
The player to the dealer’s left begins play by leading a card. (In some variations, if any player is going alone, the player to that person’s left will lead.)
Play continues in clockwise order; each player must follow suit if they have a card of the suit led. The left bower is considered a member of the trump suit and not a member of its native suit.
The player who played the highest trump wins the trick. If no trump were played, the highest card of the suit led wins the trick. The player that won the trick collects the played cards from the table and then leads the next trick.
After all five tricks have been played, the hand is scored. The player to the left of the previous dealer then deals the next hand, and the deal moves clockwise around the table until one partnership scores 10 points and wins the game.
If the player bidding (making trump) has an exceptionally good hand, or if his or her partnership is in danger of losing the game unless they are able to score points quickly, the player making trump has the option of playing without his or her partner. If the bidder playing alone wins all five tricks in the hand, the team scores four points.
“Going alone”, “Going Solo”, or “playing a lone hand” is initiated at the time the bidder orders the upturned card on the kitty to the dealer (on the first round of bidding) or names a suit (during the second round of bidding). The bidder signifies his/her desire to play alone by stating “alone” or (for example) “clubs alone” or “clubs solo” after bidding. If the dealer selects the top card, she may also declare a loner hand by sliding her discard to her partner. The bidder must make this call before play begins. During a loner, the bidder’s partner discards his or her cards, and does not participate in play of the hand.
Another regional variation is that if the partner of the dealer “orders him/her up” (forcing the dealer to pick up the turned card) during the initial bidding, then the dealer is automatically forced out, and the dealer’s partner plays a lone hand.
Depending on regional rules, the lead on the first trick will either remain with the player to the left of the dealer, or switch to the player to the left of the bidder.
The odds of success of a loner bid depend on the lay of the cards and the inactive cards held by the bidder’s partner. Nine cards out of twenty-four do not participate in play, making the hand less predictable than otherwise. A hand consisting of the top five cards of the trump suit is mathematically unbeatable from any position; this is sometimes referred to as a lay-down, as a player with such a hand may often simply lay all five cards on the table at once.
The rules of an individual game may state that a player who “sweeps,” or wins all 5 tricks while going alone/solo gets 4 points, 2 for sweeping and 2 for going alone.
One of the opponents of the lone bidder may say “I defend alone”, and his partner must stay out. The lone defender will play alone. Scoring is similar in such a case to a loner hand. Any “set” or “euchre” by a single defender going alone is worth 4 points to the defending partnership, or 3 in some regions.
Scoring in Euchre Bidding partnership (makers) wins 3 or 4 tricks 1 point
Bidding partnership (makers) wins 5 tricks 2 points
Bidder goes alone and wins 5 tricks 4 points
Bidder goes alone and wins 4 tricks 2 points **
Bidder goes alone and wins 3 tricks 1 point
Defenders win 3 or 4 tricks 2 points
Defenders win 5 tricks 4 points **
Lone defender (vs. lone bidder) wins 3 or more tricks 8 points **
** regional variation
The first team to score 15 (sometimes 5, 7, 10, or 11) points wins the game (sometimes called a round). While score can be kept by using a tally sheet, most euchre players traditionally use the unused 7 and 8 cards, or unused pairs of 5 cards for one member of each partnership to keep score. In western New York and parts of Ohio, it is traditional to use 2 and 3 cards, crossing them to show scores higher than 5. In all cases, one card is used to cover the other so as to expose the number of pips corresponding to the team’s score. A lone defender winning 3, 4, or 5 tricks (known as a march) gets 4 points.
An alternative scoring system removes the point system entirely. Instead of points, only euchres (or “Euchs”) are counted. These are when the “defenders” fail to earn a single trick, or when the “makers” fail to get three tricks (or two tricks if trump was forced). A match can be the first to 3 or 5 “Euchs”. This simplicity can enhance the enjoyment of play. The “all or nothing” element of this system may enhance the game’s drama.
Usually, the 6 and the 4 that were taken out of the deck are used as a scorecard. You cover up the symbols on the cards to show how many points that team has. Also, the 3s are used to show what is trumph. If you have the 3 of diamonds showing, diamonds is trump.
Betting in euchre can be done on a per trick basis. An additional bet may be based on a per “bump” basis. What constitutes a bump can be determined on a house rules. In general a bump occurs when the calling team fails to attain three tricks but for betting purposes a bump can also be assigned by: failure to sweep a lone hand, committing table talk, or by being caught reneging. Getting euchred on a lone hand may constitute two bumps. Bumps can be tracked with chits such as pennies piled next to the score cards. In a euchre game where bets are placed the table may agree on “a buck a trick and a buck a bump” for instance. Bets are settled at the end of each game.
Variations in play
Euchre is a game with a large number of variant versions and alternate rules. They include versions for two to six players, as well as changes in cards used, bidding, play, and scoring.
Many of these variations are specific to a particular region. In the US, one popular variation is “Stick the Dealer” (also called “Screw the Dealer”), where the dealer is forced to call trump if no suit is chosen after the second round of bidding. Another popular variation is “Farmer’s Hand”, or “No Ace No Face No Trump” where a player with a bad hand can force a re-deal, or exchange his low cards for the kitty. In Australia and New Zealand, playing to 11 rather than 10 points is common. In southwestern England and Guernsey, variations with a joker as highest trump are played.
For more detail and many more variations, see Euchre variations.
Many sources for euchre strategy exist, and one popular and humorous version are the Ten Commandments of Euchre by noted euchre master Harvey Lapp. The commandments are:
Thou shalt not pass a biddable hand.
Thou shalt counteth upon thy partner for one trick.
Thou shalt not trumpeth thy partner’s ace.
Thou shalt trumpeth thy partner’s king.
Thou shalt leadeth trump to thy partner’s order.
Thou shalt not leadeth trump to thine opponent’s order.
When thou hath ordered trump, leadeth thy right bower to smite thy foes.
Ordereth not the right bower unto thy partner’s hand unless thou canst go alone.
Goeth alone whenever thou canst, unless thy team hath eight or nine points.
Thou shalt not complaineth about the cards that the Lord thy euchre God hath bestowed upon you.
Note that although these rules are generally good for a beginner to follow, there are exceptions to almost every one of them.
Unscrupulous partners are known to increase their chances of winning tricks by cooperative communication which is not allowed in play. This is commonly known as table talk (or talking across the table), crossboarding, or kibbitzing.
Innocuous code words to tell what cards are in the player’s own hand or to query what cards are in the partner’s hand or what trump to declare. E.g. “You look so LOVELY tonight.” Translation: I have a lot of hearts in my hand. Call hearts as trump.
Secret gestures. Some examples: loud cough means partner should pass; scratching the right side of your face tells your partner you have the right bower (similar for left side); placing your cards face down during bidding is an invitation for your partner to go alone; twisting your ring or ring finger usually means your partner should call diamonds.
If crossboarding is called, depending on local rules, points may be given to the team calling out the infraction, or the hand may be simply disqualified and re-dealt by the next player in order. The player accused of cheating may or may not be given a chance to refute the charge. Some variations allow (or at least accept the inevitability of) the following form of non-verbal communication: A player may gratuitously hesitate before passing to signal to his partner that his cards are helpful to the offered trump, but are not sufficient to guarantee a win. This adds an additional element of strategy in that players may bluff hesitation to discourage the opponent from calling the offered trump.
It is not cheating to see the discarded cards. the hand is dead and the other team is awarded 2 points
Other forms of cheating include:
Stealing the deal
To successfully steal the deal, one player must finish dealing all the cards in the normal manner and flip the top card of the kitty without anyone else pointing out that it is not actually that player’s turn to deal. Once the top card is flipped, the deal becomes legal according to some circles. There are generally no penalties for being caught attempting this theft, though penalties can be instituted depending upon how frequently the players involved attempt to steal. After a deal has been stolen, the deal rotation continues from the dealer that stole the deal, unless, of course, it is stolen again.
If you do not follow suit when you are able to (usually by playing a trump card instead), it is considered a renege, and the opposing team is rewarded two points if it is caught in later tricks of the same hand. A variation on calling out a renege is if more than one card of the reneged suit is played afterwards, the infraction may only be called on the first instance, if it is not called until the second instance it does not count. A cheating player often reneges purposely in order to win a trick if they think the opposing team will not catch the renege. However reneges can also be unintentional, where a player misreads some of his/her cards, usually by misinterpreting the left bower as being of its native suit, but are still callable by opponents as reneging. If a player reneges when the opposing player is going alone that team is awarded 4 points instead of 2.
Euchre Rule Modifications for extra players using extra suits
Use a deck of three red suits and three black suits. The players divide into three teams of two players. Teammates should be sitting directly across the table from each other (there should be two players between partners on either side).
There will be three bowers: one right and two left. In both suits of the same color as trump, the jack is a left bower; the first one played outranks the second. Otherwise the rank of cards is as in normal play.
If a team calls trump and wins the hand (with 3 or 4 tricks), they get 1 point.
If a team calls trump and ties another team (each with 2 tricks), then both teams get 1 point.
If a team calls trump and does not win the hand, the winner gets 2 points (if both other teams get two tricks they are both awarded 2 points).
If a team takes all 5 tricks they receive 2 points (whether or not they called trump).
If a person should choose to play the hand ALONE (without their partner), they can get four points by taking all 5 tricks.
If they go alone and take less than 5 tricks, standard scoring applies.
First team to get 10 points wins the game.
Divide into 4 teams of two players.
Teammates should be sitting directly across the table from each other (there should be three people between partners on either side). There will be 4 bowers, 1 right and 3 left.
The rank of Trump goes as follows:
Bowers: (Jacks of same color as trump)
Right Bower (jack of trump)
1st played (left bower) jack
2nd played (left bower) jack
3rd played (left bower) jack
Ace, King, Queen, 10, 9.
If a team calls trump and wins the hand (with 2, 3 or 4 tricks), they get 1 point.
If a team calls trump and ties another team (each with 2 tricks), then both teams get 1 point.
If a team calls trump and does not win the hand, the winner gets 2 points (if 2 other teams get two tricks they are both awarded 2 points).
If a team takes all 5 tricks they receive 2 points (whether or not they called trump). If a person should choose to play the hand ALONE (without their partner), they can get four points by taking 4 or 5 tricks.
If they go alone and take less than 4 tricks, standard scoring applies.
First team to get 10 points wins the game.
Some euchre terms
Right bower – a Jack of the same suit as the trump suit. Comes from the German word Bauer (usually referred to as just “the right”). In some parts of the world, the German spelling “bauer” is still used.
Left bower – the Jack of the non-trump suit of the same color as the trump suit; the second-highest card in a given hand (usually referred to as just “the left”)
In some regions the term “hook” is used instead of bower, i.e. “right hook” and “left hook”.
It is worth noting that in some areas, particularly central Ohio the word bar is substituted for the word bower. It is possibly a perversion of the word bower caused simply by people mishearing it.
Two-suited: a hand of only cards of two suits, or a player with such. This allows the player to often avoid following suit, which can be very advantageous. (Also known as dual-suited, or double-suited)
Dutchman – having both bowers and the Ace of trump in the same hand; this is a guarantee of winning at least three tricks. Also called a “loner hand”, the 9th commandment of euchre requires going alone on this hand if possible.
In The Barn – when you and your partner are one point away from winning, you are ‘in the barn'
Guarded or protected left – having the left bower and another trump card in the player’s hand; the left bower is protected because the player can play the other trump on a right bower lead
Lay-Down – a hand that will automatically win all five tricks if played in the correct order; ex. a Dutchman plus two more trump cards, or one more trump card and an off-trump ace. Also called a “Loner” because a player with such a hand will typically opt to go alone. May also refer to any set of cards that are often played simultaneously when the player knows he will win all the tricks he lays for. This however may only be done within the same suit without giving up a slight advantage to the other players.
Fishing Out – The player to lead can on the first hand, play a high card (typically an Ace) of a different suit from the trump, gambling that the opposing team will have at least one card each from that suit. The player would therefore say ‘lets see what we can fish out’. Also referred to as finding ‘the outside’.
Turn down a bower, lose for an hour – Commonly said when trying to intimidate a player that has turned down a bower as trump.
Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job / Go high or go home – A phrase indicating that a player should not use a low trump to trump in on a trick when that player has both a low and high trump in their hand.
Cut: Playing a low trump on a non-trump trick. Also simply called “trumping.”
Up-cut: playing a higher trump on a trick which was previously cut. (Also known as Up-trumping or Re-cutting)
Skunked – Used to refer to a team who fails to win any points during a game.
Sticking the Dealer: used when the call for trump goes around the table and the dealer is forced to pick trump.
Farmer’s Hand or Farm Hand: A hand consisting of only non-trump 9’s and 10’s, the worst possible hand (referring to how the job of a farmhand is considered a lowly job).
Ace-no-face: A hand with one Ace and the rest of the cards are 9’s and 10’s.
It no natural Mr Lobinson, me no likee: Choosing a trump ( or picking up Benny ) with no other trumps or high cards in your hand.
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